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Dramatic end overshadows Twins' power

@dohyoungpark
April 17, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- It’s not a promising sign that the Twins’ bullpen has allowed late runs in each of the last three contests -- with late rallies by the Blue Jays in both games this series, accounting for the Twins’ first back-to-back losses this season. But Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario,

MINNEAPOLIS -- It’s not a promising sign that the Twins’ bullpen has allowed late runs in each of the last three contests -- with late rallies by the Blue Jays in both games this series, accounting for the Twins’ first back-to-back losses this season.

But Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario, two of the Twins’ hottest hitters, did their part in helping the offense keep pace with a pair of homers, and a furious rally in the ninth inning fell just short when C.J. Cron was thrown out at home to end Tuesday night’s 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays at Target Field.

“It’s been a positive theme for us for sure, and regardless of score, all of our guys, we go up there late in the game thinking that we’re still in the game, that we’re going to win,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight. We just didn’t have it to come all the way back, but we had really good at-bats against their closer, gave it a shot and that’s all we can really ask for from our guys.”

Though the Twins trailed by two runs entering the ninth, Marwin Gonzalez led off the frame with his first Twins homer, and after Cron reached on a fielder’s choice, he rounded third on Byron Buxton’s double to the left-field corner but was thrown out at the plate on a perfect relay by left fielder Teoscar Hernandez and shortstop Freddy Galvis.

“I thought it was a really good send by [third-base coach] Tony [Diaz], and we’re going to take that chance every time,” Baldelli said. “[Cron], he was hauling. He gave us an opportunity to send him and they made a good relay and ultimately a good throw to the plate and got us. It was a well-executed play and I think the right move on our part, too.”

Polanco had begun the scoring with a 412-foot solo homer to right off Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez in the third inning for his third long ball of the season to go with three doubles and three triples. He later walked in the sixth as he reached base multiple times for the third straight game and for the eighth time this season.

The 25-year-old shortstop had entered the game in the American League’s top three in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and is hitting .415/.467/.755 this season after his 1-for-3 performance on Tuesday night.

“When he’s in the box, he’s just a quality Major League hitter,” Baldelli said. “There’s not a lot you can look at and be critical of in anything he does. He swings at good pitches. He’s got a good stroke. He feels that confidence and he knows what he’s doing up there.”

Several innings later, after Twins starter Kyle Gibson and reliever Ryne Harper allowed four runs in the sixth inning to put Minnesota behind, 4-1, Rosario helped the offense keep up with a three-run homer -- his fourth of the season -- to tie the game and add to his team-leading RBI total of 14.

Rosario started the season in an 0-for-14 slump, but since he switched to using Gonzalez’s lighter bat during the Twins’ two-game series in Kansas City, he has hit .351/.400/.757 with only seven strikeouts in 40 plate appearances.

“I don't want to try to change too much,” Rosario said. “Before, I feel my bat heavy. Now, I feel the bat more light. I'm staying in control of my body, not go to the front. See the ball and use my hands, that's it."

Bullpen gives up second straight lead
Though Gibson allowed only one hit through his first five scoreless innings, he and the Twins’ bullpen unraveled in the sixth inning as the Blue Jays came from behind for the second consecutive game.

In that inning, Gibson allowed a walk and three hits, including a go-ahead, two-run single by Justin Smoak, and Harper allowed two inherited runners to score on a pair of RBI singles.

Though the Twins tied the game on Rosario’s three-run homer, Trevor May was then charged with two earned runs after allowing a hit and walking a pair of hitters in the seventh inning, and Trevor Hildenberger also allowed two inherited runners to score on a single by Hernandez.

That wildness has been an issue for the Twins several times on this homestand. Consider Sunday’s victory over the Tigers, when May and Blake Parker combined for three walks in the late innings to allow Detroit to climb back into the game, or Saturday afternoon, when Parker issued a walk and a wild pitch to move the tying run to second.

Entering Tuesday’s game, Twins relievers were third in the AL with 31 walks despite the team having played in only 13 games -- at least two fewer than every other AL team.

“I think we have the guys that have the ability to command the ball and maybe aren't [doing so], as opposed to looking at guys who struggle to command the ball,” Baldelli said. “I think we have the guys that can do that and we'll look for that from them.”

Up next
Inclement weather is expected in the Twin Cities throughout Wednesday, but if conditions permit the Twins and Blue Jays to play as scheduled at 6:40 p.m. CT at Target Field, Jake Odorizzi will make his fourth start of the season against Blue Jays right-hander Trent Thornton, live on MLB.TV. Odorizzi took a no-hitter into the fifth inning last Wednesday against the Mets but was removed from the game after walking the bases loaded. He has yet to complete five innings in a start since striking out 11 in six frames in his season debut against the Indians.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.